Classical Composers as Kids

Have you ever wondered what classical composers were like when they were kids? Let’s meet a few and find out!

Maria Anna Mozart (1751–1829)
& Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) 

Siblings Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 9 years old, and Nannerl Mozart, 14 years old
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 9 years old, and Nannerl Mozart, 14 years old

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Maria Anna Mozart (nicknamed Nannerl) were musical Austrian siblings. When little brother Wolfgang was a toddler, he was fascinated by his sister’s piano lessons, so he asked to have lessons too!

Wolfgang Amadeus and Nannerl worked so hard at their music that their parents took them on concert tours to perform all over Europe. The siblings also loved to play make believe: they created a pretend kingdom and a secret language together.

A painting of Wolfgang playing the piano, Nannerl singing, and their dad playing the violin
In this painting, Wolfgang is playing the piano, Nannerl is singing, and their dad is playing the violin.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Ludwig van Beethoven, about 13 years old
Ludwig van Beethoven, about 13 years old

Ludwig van Beethoven grew up in the little town of Bonn in Germany. His mother worked as a cook and his father worked as a singer. Ludwig’s dad started teaching him piano when he was quite little and Ludwig played his first concert when he was about 8.

By the age of 11, Ludwig was also studying composition with a local music director, and he was such a strong student that he sometimes substituted for his teacher as a harpsichord player!

Beethoven grew up to write nine symphonies and many beloved pieces for piano, orchestra, and voices.

George Bridgetower (1778-1860)

George Bridgetower, about 12 years old
George Bridgetower, about 12 years old

George Bridgetower was a Black violinist and composer who was born in Poland. His father worked for the Hungarian aristocrat Prince Esterhazy. The composer Jospeh Haydn also worked for the prince, so George might have taken music lessons with him!

By the time George was ten, he and his dad had moved to England, where George continued to study music and perform public concerts.

When he grew up, George Bridgetower became a successful violinist and composer, and he also became friends with Beethoven.

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847)
and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Left, Fanny Mendelssohn, 16 years old and on the right Felix Mendelssohn, 12 years old
Fanny Mendelssohn, 16 years old, and Felix Mendelssohn, 12 years old

Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn were another pair of musical siblings, like Wolfgang Amadeus and Nannerl Mozart. They grew up in Berlin, Germany, and their first piano teacher was their mom. They loved to write music for each other and compare musical ideas – in fact, they continued to do that when they were grown up! Felix and Fanny also liked to play a musical game together: one sibling would start writing a composition, and then the other would take it and finish it!

Felix became a professional musician when he grew up, but their parents discouraged Fanny from having a career: they felt it was proper for her to be a housewife instead. However, after she was married, Fanny eventually decided to publish her compositions anyway, proving she could have a family and be a composer!

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896)

Clara Wieck Schumann at 9 years old
Clara Wieck, 9 years old

Clara Wieck was born in Leipzig, Germany, and her parents were musicians: her mother was a singer and her father was a piano teacher. Clara’s parents got a divorce when she was five, and she spent most of her childhood with her dad and her stepmother.

Clara’s dad Friedrich Wieck homeschooled her in music, and she was turned out to be a talented pianist. Clara gave her first piano performance when she was nine, and soon her dad started taking her to play recitals in many cities in Europe. Often she played music she wrote herself! Clara Wieck grew up to be a composer and one of the most famous pianists of her time.

Clara Wieck Schumann at 13 years old
Clara Wieck, 13 years old

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Robert Schumann, about 16 years old
Robert Schumann, about 16 years old.
Image from Robert-Schumannhaus, Zwickau

Robert Schumann was another piano student of Clara Wieck’s dad Friedrich. When he started piano lessons with Mr. Wieck, he moved into the Wieck family’s home.

Robert was a few years older than Clara. He loved to play with Clara and her step siblings and tell them ghost stories.

When Clara was a teenager, she and Robert fell in love. Eventually they got married and became one of the most famous composing couples in classical music!

Check out more activities and learn more on the ICAN Blog!